Doug Bruns

Posts Tagged ‘how to live’

Ray Bradbury, Nietzsche, a New Year, and How to Live. Whew!

In Books, Creativity, Curiosity, Happiness, Life, Literature, Philosophy, The Examined Life, Writers, Writing on December 31, 2012 at 7:22 am


Did you read the Sunday Time’s magazine last Sunday? It is the annual “The Lives They Lived” issue. As you might imagine, for a guy who’s spent a lot of time working on the project How Best To Live, this issue is always and annually most welcome. I don’t think one has to lead a life of pronounced accomplishment to live the best life, but for a lot of people, people far more motivated than I am, accomplishment is often the gauge of their existence.

There is one life in particular I want to share with you. Ray Bradbury (b. 1920). Here is the piece in full:

Shortly before his 90th birthday, when asked which moment of his life he’d return to were time travel possible, Ray Bradbury told his interviewer: “Every. Single. Moment. Every single moment of my life has been incredible. I’ve loved it, I’ve savored it, it’s been beautiful–because I’ve remained a boy” Bradbury was a rare and necessary antidote to the tortured-genius myth–that toxic cultural narrative that requires great creators to suffer lest their work have no depth, no gravitas, no legacy.

Bradbury left high school with plans of going to college, but no money. So he set out to educate himself by going to the library three days a week, a regimen he continued for 10 years, never romanticizing poverty or the so-called writer’s life. Instead, he celebrated the joy of writing itself. In 1951, living in Los Angels with his wife and two infant daughters, he got a bag of dimes and rented a typewriter in the U.C.L.A. basement for 10 cents an hour. He wrote “Fahrenheit 451” for $9.80.

His secret? “You remain invested in your inner child by exploding every day. You don’t worry about the future, you don’t worry about the past–you just explode.”

Two and half years ago I posted a note about the biography I’d read of Nietzsche by Julian Young. In that post I quoted the opening paragraph. I’m posting it again–the paragraph–because I think it the perfect end piece to the Bradbury life we’re considering.

Nietzsche’s greatest inspiration, he believed, was the idea that if one is in a state of perfect mental health one should be able to survey one’s entire life and then, rising ecstatically to one’s fee, shout “Da capo!–Once more! Once more! Back to the beginning!–to “the whole play and performance.” In perfect health one would “crave nothing more fervently” than the “eternal return” of one’s life throughout infinite time–not the expurgated version with the bad bits left out, but exactly the same life, down to the very last detail, however painful or shameful.

So the process continues, this business of how best to live. Why should a new year be any different?


What is going on here? A couple of posts since shuttering …the house… Are we back together, the first breakup never lasting? I don’t know quite honestly. I have missed sharing my thoughts and observations, that is true. And something is nagging me. I don’t know what, exactly, but it brought me back here.

I’m not going to analyze it. Going forward (with life, the big picture, that is) I wish to make fewer plans, establish fewer goals, make fewer commitments. In summary, I just want to live as best I am able in this moment. I’ll never be the boy Bradbury claimed to be. Nor can I say with Nietzsche that I would do it all again without editing. But those are lessons and I value them–lessons I wish to better incorporate.

I do hope our paths cross again, you, dear reader, and me. I so enjoy your company.

Happy New Year.

Will advise for cash.

In Life, Memoir, The Examined Life on June 13, 2012 at 6:00 am

“Yes, coach. Okay, coach.”

A person followed my Twitter feed recently whose profile stated that she was a “life coach” with over ten-thousand followers. Ten thousand! I went to Google and searched the term life coach. In .26 seconds Google responded that it found “about 43,400,000 results.” Forty-three million! (Two exclamation marks might be a record for me.)

Does anyone else find this curious? All these people coached–or coaching–on life? One popular life coaching site advertises: “As more people recognize the need for inspiration and guidance, the more they see coaching as a method of gaining self-confidence and moving towards a higher aspiration. Imagine, finally being in the right place at the right time.”  I’m not sure what they mean by “finally being in the right place at the right time.” Are they suggesting that previous generations were full of self confidence and brimming with aspiration, didn’t need coaching on how to live. Perhaps it’s only the present generation so vacuously lacking? Lucky us. The introduction includes a pop-up quiz the inquirer should take to see if they’ve got the goods or need the goods.

I am (hardly) resisting the temptation to be cynical. Forty-three million hits can’t be wrong. Ten-thousand people in search of a coach. That’s a lot of folks in need. I have to respect that.

The site I quote includes a photograph, in sepia (interesting choice), of a lovely looking not-too-young, not-too-old woman whose title is “Mentor coach, and admission adviser.” I didn’t bother to discover if one applies for coaching needed or, rather, applies for coaching offered. Perhaps that is where the mentor coach comes in: “Sorry, you failed the quiz. You need life coaching. We’re here for you. Please submit your application.” Or maybe, conversely: “Congratulations. You passed. You exhibited knowledge of how to live and we think you’d make a great coach for those who don’t get it.”

Oh, I wasn’t going to be cynical. Sorry.

I have nothing against any of this. Nor do I have anything for it. I suspect in prior generations “the need for inspiration and guidance” was filled by: a) parents, b) school, c) super heroes, d) books (there’s a concept), e) teachers (formal and informal), f) extended family, g) churches, h) friends, and so forth–all old school stuff. Stuff that obviously doesn’t work any more. That is just conjecture on my part.

As best I can reckon, I have been on a similar quest for forty-four years, since my eighth birthday (that story here). Informally, I have been trying to understand how best to live–I guess formally too, if one considers academic study. (An undergraduate concentration in philosophy; a failed attempt at an advanced degree in the highfalutin History of Ideas.)

Regardless, I wish all those folks in pursuit of a good coach the best of luck. Your life depends on it. And to the coaches, I ask that you be gentle and spread your wisdom widely. There are a lot of us–over forty million, I’m told–in need of assistance.